Monday, August 30, 2010

True Faith Requires Doubt

I am continuing to read James Hollis Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life and in speaking of the spiritual life he talks about the importance of doubt.  With doubt each of us can begin to truly explore our own spiritual path, yet that doubt creates anxiety and our egos will seek to avoid anxiety at almost any cost.  If we can embrace ourselves, be at home with ourselves, Hollis tell us, then we know that we are never really alone.  He writes, "When we are alone, we are still with someone; we are with ourselves.  those who mange to find respect for themselves, who learn to dialogue with themselves, who find that their dreams and other such phenomena are communicating with them from some deeper place within them are not really alone." (Hollis, 221)

I have been reflecting on this in light of Unitarian Universalism.  One might say that a hallmark of Unitarian Universalism is doubt.  We question everything, priding ourselves on our lack of doctrine and creed.  We are faith community of seekers; our first source is the direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder.  Yet there is a rigidity, an absolutism in Unitarian Universalism that seems inconsistent with an embrace of doubt.  While rejecting the authority of any kind of scripture, tradition or religious authority, we can be rigid in our attitudes toward worship.  We often posses an attitude of superiority and be rather closed-minded when it comes to more embodied expressions of spirituality - preferring to stay in the region of the rational or the mind. 

Others have admonished us for our emphasis on reason to the exclusion of all else - James Luther Adams reminded us that we are not simply rational creatures.  Paul Rasor reminded us of this again in his Berry Street lecture in 2009 that our exclusive use of reason can be stumbling block or barrier to our aspirations to be a truly multicultural, multiracial faith community. 

Do we truly embrace doubt?  I am not sure we do. Hollis writes, "To bear the anxiety of doubt is to be led to openness; openness leads to revelation; revelation leads to discovery; discovery leads to enlargement." (Hollis, 220) We may reject traditional religion but I don't think we always truly embrace doubt. For to embrace doubt is to embrace an attitude of openness and curiosity - to discover the new.  We would be open to trying new things .. to truly seeking truth wherever it may be found.  At our best we do this.  We aspire to do this. 

It is why I continue to be a Unitarian Universalist.  I value being a part of a faith community that aspires to be open to on-going revelation; to seeking truth wherever found.  My hope is that we will learn to more deeply embrace doubt.